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‘A Transition to Medicare for All Could Generate the Biggest Pay Raise in a Generation and Help Reduce Income Inequality’

Economists Explain Medicare for All Will Save Families, the Country Money

WASHINGTON, DC – Leading economists today took on industry arguments surrounding Medicare for All financing, detailing how it will reduce overall health care costs as well as save middle-class Americans money.

The economists spoke during a telephone press call in which they were joined by U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.). An audio recording of the call is available here.

Here is some of what they said:

“We know that the U.S. spends much more than other countries that have universal health care. The U.S. spends $3.2 trillion a year on health care, and under Medicare for All, the cost savings would more than offset the cost increase of making health care universal, including lower drug pricing, uniform Medicare rates and better use of preventative care,” said Jeannette Wicks-Lim, economics research professor at the Political Economy Research Institute, University of Massachusetts, Amherst. “The central question isn’t ‘Can we afford it?’ It’s ‘Do we have the political will?’”

“Our press needs to understand and expose how terribly unfair, inefficient and overly costly our system is right now. Our current monopolized system makes no sense as we are spending a fortune on health while other advanced countries are spending much less and getting better outcomes. We just have given license to a lobby that is so powerful and funds politicians that protect the status quo,” said Jeffrey Sachs, an economics professor and director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University. “We have an uproar in our press that Medicare for All is ‘impossible.’ Yet what is being proposed with Medicare for All isn’t radical at all. In fact, it’s mainstream everywhere else in the advanced world, and the countries are seeing better outcomes and lower costs.”

“When it comes to health insurance premiums, the secretary pays the same as the executive. This is one of the many ways the current health care system disproportionately hurts lower-income Americans,” said Emmanuel Saez, an economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley. “A transition to Medicare for All could generate the biggest pay raise in a generation for American workers and help reduce income inequality.”

“While employers pay a large share of insurance premiums, workers are actually paying the entire thing through a reduction in their take-home pay,” said Gabriel Zucman, an economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley. “With Medicare for All, these premium “taxes” will no longer be hidden from workers, and Americans will know exactly where their money is going.”

“We spend 18% of our GDP each year on health care – almost double per person compared to most other nations – and our costs are only increasing. This makes Medicare for All not only a human and a moral imperative, but also an economic imperative,” said Jayapal. “Our current health system, designed to line the pockets of for-profit companies, is a massive anchor that drags down our economy. Medicare for All, on the other hand, would actually guarantee comprehensive coverage for everyone and bring down overall health expenditures – saving American families money and allowing businesses to compete and thrive in the global economy.”

More than 250 economists have signed a public statement supporting Medicare for All, noting that “health care is not a service that follows standard market rules” and that “public financing for health is not a matter of raising new money for health care, but of reducing total health care outlays and distributing payments more equitably and efficiently.”